Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf met his British counterpart David Cameron on Tuesday in London, and while discussing issues related to Afghanistan and the British withdrawal from that country, asked that the UK assist with military hardware to Pakistan. It would not be the first time that the UK gave Pakistan military equipment, for when Pakistan’s armed forces were created after partition, they received their initial military equipment from the UK. It was also a coincidence that, then as now, the UK had ended a major war in the area, which had meant the stockpiling of equipment. Whereas the forces were awash with equipment from World War II, in particular the amphibious invasion of Malaysia that never took place, now the British forces have a lot of equipment in Afghanistan. There will have to be a cost-benefit analysis, as to whether it will be cheaper for the UK to pay the cost of transporting the equipment back home with the troops, or to abandon it where it is and buy new equipment on return. A major consideration will be whether the equipment is Afghanistan-specific. Even if it can be used in the UK, can any British troops use it? British equipment, though, might be suitable for Pakistan, as such equipment will carry with it strings.

If the equipment is of British manufacture, it might be used for a re-entry into a market that turned to other suppliers long ago. It must not be forgotten that British equipment will virtually automatically create a demand for spares from that manufacturer. As the UK acquires equipment from other countries, there is also the possibility of other countries imposing their conditions. True, Mr Cameron has expressed the wish for continuity in the Enhanced Strategic Dialogue, but there is no indication that he would like a topic added, as the granting of this request would virtually guarantee.

Pakistan must allow neither the USA nor the UK to forget that Pakistan is one of the guarantors of a balance of power in the region, which is constantly under threat due to India’s obsessive arms race.